Confessions of a Homeschool Burnout
Confession #1: I'm tired!
I’ve got to admit something to you. I’m tired. I mean, really tired. Like, “I don’t care if I ever read another book” tired. It’s from homeschooling my kids. Well, it’s from that and from life. Life has been hard. I’ve decided if I ever write an autobiography, it’s going to be called, My Life Sucks and Other Proven Facts. The last few years have not been kind to my family, and I have a stress level higher than the national debt to show for it.
I’m tired of fighting. I’m tired of forcing children to learn. I’m tired of knowing what’s for dinner. I’m just tired. I’m burnt out, and I don’t want to homeschool my kids anymore.
Studies have shown that an estimated 40 to 50% of teachers leave the classroom within the first five years. That’s a huge turnover rate. I’ve been teaching my children for 13 years, so don’t judge me. I made it more than twice as long as many teachers do. Anyway, just think, teachers don’t have to live with their students. They get to go home at the end of the day. When I leave my classroom, do you know what I hear? I hear my students asking me what’s for dinner. (I don’t know what’s for dinner! Why do you people always expect to eat??)
Confession #2: Sometimes, I feel alone.
I have another confession to make. For the most part, homeschool moms get on my nerves. Actually, most moms get on my nerves. I mean, no offense. Y’all are nice and all, but sometimes I don’t want to hear how perfect your children are. Many times, I feel alone. I go to homeschool gatherings, and I hear about how little Johnny is reading on a college level at age three. I hear how little Suzy mastered trigonometry in the third grade. Then, I look at my kids, and they ask me what’s for dinner.
I wish homeschool moms could be honest with each other and just say how it really is. There are days when everything is great and you feel like the best mother in the world. Your daughter aces the spelling test, and your son offers to cook dinner for you, just because. I love to hear about those days, and it gives me hope that there will be sunny days in my future.
However, there are also days when the dog throws up on the couch, and your daughter cries over her math lesson. Your son will only speak Pig Latin and refuses to answer you unless you call him Batman. I want to hear about those days too, so I know I’m not alone in this insanity. It gives me hope to hear other families have problems.
Confession #3: There are times I feel trapped.
I must admit here too, there are days, even now, when I dream of sending my kids off to public school. I actually did that once, and it didn’t go so well for us. My daughter broke out in eczema from head to toe from the stress of preparing for the statewide assessment test she was facing. My son refused to eat or go to the bathroom at school and would come home and run to the bathroom and then run to the refrigerator. I was more stressed out while worrying about them in school than I ever have been while listening to them argue at home. It just wasn’t good for us.
I know, for my kids, being at home is their best option. I know, at ages 17 and 13, it would be cruel to send them off to public school now. But, a mother can dream, right?
So, on the days when I feel like I am losing it, I feel trapped, because I am. I have set my own trap, and I’ll live in it, knowing it’s still the best thing for my kids. Just because I know that does not make me feel any less trapped.
Have You Ever Been Tempted to Quit Homeschooling?
Confession #4: I actually quit.
Here’s the biggest confession of all. I actually quit homeschooling close to 2 years ago. Now, before you alert the authorities, hear me out.
First off, in my defense, we were in a rough time of life. All total, my family has moved six times in seven years. We’ve closed our business, lost our house, had our second business burn to the ground, started a new job and left that job and more. My husband had his face burned through a flash fire, and he faced possible heart issues (I can’t imagine whatever could have caused the high blood pressure…). So, if you notice I have a nervous tick, just ignore it. I’ll be fine. Really, I will.
My kids battled me in homeschooling from day one, even before the rough years began. In preschool, my son would get upset and cry if I tried to sing the months of the year song to him. Seriously. The months of the year. To this day, he has to stop and think about what month comes next, and I just roll my eyes and walk away when he does.
I battled for 11 years. My son battled me in English. He battled me in science. He battled me in math and history too. He even fought me when I signed him up for a homeschool PE class. My daughter, the younger child, learned all her battling skills from him, so on days when he cooperated, she picked up the slack. The Homeschooling Battle Dangerous Duo – those are my children. I think I’ve had three good homeschooling days since 2005. Three. No wait, on that one day, we only made it until noon without an argument. Make that two and a half good days.
Because of all the struggles, I was left wondering if there was something wrong with my kids. I even voiced these concerns to them, which made them feel like they were stupid. If I have one regret as a mother, that is it. I should have never allowed my kids to believe they were anything less than brilliant. However, I put the words out there, and they believed they were dumb. They believed they couldn’t “do” school, so they battled me even more.
Two years ago, I had finally reached my breaking point. I had begged. I had pleaded. I had punished. I had even tried bribing (which I don’t typically believe in). Nothing worked, and the battles raged on. Finally, I did the unthinkable, and it was the best decision of my life. I quit homeschooling. I don’t mean I sent my kids to school. I mean I quit.
On that day, I told my kids I was resigning as their teacher. I told them, if they wanted an education, it would be up to them to get it. I walked away and didn’t look back. (Okay, I really doubted myself completely, but I didn’t let them see that.) For the next few weeks, my daughter tried me and tested me. She would come to me and say, “What do you want me to do for school today?” My answer? “Nothing.” She would just look at me, dumbfounded. She couldn’t decide if I was kidding or not.
My son, on the other hand, just avoided me completely. He figured, “Hey cool. Mama’s mad, so I get out of school.” He did nothing. I mean nothing.
After about three weeks or so, at just about the time I was about to give in and start battling again, the most amazing thing happened. My kids started learning on their own. My daughter found a website online that had math activities to help her learn what she needed to. My son found videos and books about history and science. They were learning and without battles. I could almost hear the angels in heaven singing.
What were the results?
I wasn’t sure if the learning trend would continue or not, but I decided to give it some time. Sure enough, my kids kept learning. They kept looking for websites, books and activities to give them what they needed. They were learning, and they were loving it! So was I, though I still had no idea what to fix for dinner.
This school year, my daughter asked to be enrolled in three high school science classes. She’s in eighth grade, yet, by the end of this year, she will have three high school science credits under her belt. Just this past week, she came to me and asked if I would help her find some learning materials to go with To Kill a Mockingbird. “I guess so,” I said, as I tried to hide my excitement. (I didn’t want to scare her away, you know…)
My son has followed a less traditional route. His education has been more hands-on and technical. He will be attending a technical school in the fall, and he is already working as a handyman. His education may not be the typical college path, but he will do just fine.
Why am I telling you this?
The path I chose actually has a name. It’s called, “Unschooling,” and it’s a child-led way of educating. Some people disagree strongly with it, but many people think it’s great. Whatever you think is up to you. I know it has worked for my family.
My purpose in writing this was not to convince you to unschool your children. No, indeed. For many families, this would not be a good path.
My purpose, instead, was to give a little encouragement to the mamas out there who might be struggling like I was. I felt alone. I felt discouraged. I felt like there was something wrong with me and with my children. When I spoke to other homeschool moms about this, for the most part, they looked at me as though something was wrong with my family. I got tired of that look, so I decided I wanted to encourage others who may be feeling the same way.
One of my favorite quotes about education came from Albert Einstein. He said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I was letting my little fishies believe they were stupid. It was once I allowed them to swim that they realized how smart they were.
Are you allowing your fish to swim? If you are forcing them to climb trees and not getting good results, consider quitting too. You know what is right for your kids. You know what they need. Allow them to flourish and grow in their own ways.
Whether you decide to fight the battle and whether you decide to homeschool, unschool or send them to school, just know you aren’t alone. You are doing the best job you can. So, in case no one else has said it to you lately, “Good job, Mama. You’re doing fine." (And by the way, what’s for dinner?)